Why Microsoft’s 20 Week Parental-Leave Scheme Matters to All of Us


It's enough to make parents drool.

Baby being held by an adult

Last week, the Australian outpost of software giant Microsoft announced a sizeable benefit for its employees – a parental leave extension to 20 weeks for the primary carer, six weeks for any new parent, as well as four weeks full paid leave for those forced to take time off to care for an ill family member. All new schemes also extend to same-sex couples.

Not only that, but the company has also stripped back the minimum time an employee must work with Microsoft before receiving the benefits, with the leave scheme available to anyone from the day they arrive.

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“We are now making it available from day one, whereas before we did have that caveat of the full entitlement of 12 weeks after six months. Now, potentially you join Microsoft and you have that benefit available immediately,” Microsoft Australia’s human resources director, Ingrid Jenkins, explained. “We expect a lot from our people, but we also understand that it’s a relationship in which we also want to give something in return.”

Microsoft’s move echoes a widespread movement towards more supportive workplaces (and it’s about time, don’t you think?). In addition to workplaces pushing for perks like unlimited leave (Netflix, Virgin and the like), there are also companies offering everything from free meals (are you hiring, Dropbox?) to in-office yoga and vegie gardens, like Australia’s own Moose Toys. But the real test (and sticking point) for companies seems to be parental leave.

Luckily though, there are other local companies doing their part to enact change. For example, Westpac offers 13 weeks paid maternity leave, with options for flexible working options, such as job sharing following workforce re-entry, and pharmaceutical company AbbVie offers 18 weeks paid parental leave, while Caltex has implemented the envy-inducing “Babycare” program, which sees parents receive a 3 per cent quarterly bonus between returning to work and the second birthday of their child. Not only that, but they’re also eligible for up to $1,500 worth of emergency childcare.

Considering work perks for employees are just as beneficial to employers, isn’t it time we saw a little more support like Microsoft Australia in all of our workplaces?

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